McKitrick and Nierenberg 2010, rebutting Schmidt 2009 is in press at the Journal of Economic and Social Measurement.
Schmidt (Int J of Climatology) 2009, which commented on McKitrick and Michaels 2007, was peer reviewed by Phil Jones (the puffball review is in the Climategate documents); McKitrick was not given a chance to comment. In contrast, when McKitrick and Nierenberg submitted to IJOC, despite specific requests that Schmidt not be a reviewer, McKitrick and Nierenberg ended up with what was, in effect, a Team peer review, with Gavin Schmidt an important and unreported member of the Team. As in other incidents of Team peer review, the Team managed to stifle the comment at IJOC. In Climategate terminology, the Team ensured that there wasn’t a “leak” at IJOC. Eventually, McKitrick and Nierenberg submitted to the Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, which was not subject to the Team.
Ross writes at his webpage:
NEW PAPER ON CONTAMINATED SURFACE TEMPERATURE DATA: In 2007 I published a paper with Pat Michaels showing evidence that CRU global surface temperature data used by the IPCC are likely contaminated due to socioeconomic development and variations in data quality. In 2009 Gavin Schmidt published a paper in the International Journal of Climatology claiming our results, as well as those of de Laat and Maurellis who independently found the same things we did, were spurious. My rebuttal, coauthored with Nicolas Nierenberg, has been accepted at The Journal of Economic and Social Measurement.
* McKitrick, Ross R. and Nicolas Nierenberg (2010) Socioeconomic Patterns in Climate Data. Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, forthcoming.
Data/Code archive here.
Ross provides the following account of Team peer review at the International Journal of Climatology (this is the same journal where Team peer reviewers stifled our comment on Santer et al 2008):
We submitted in April 2009. I requested that Schmidt not be a reviewer, or at least that he not be given a veto. Andrew Comrie promised that he would not let this happen. In September I got an email from Schmidt asking for my Stata code to assist him in preparing a response to the IJOC submission. I wrote to Comrie saying WTF, and he wrote back saying
Thanks for checking back on this. You had requested that Schmidt should not be a referee, and he is not. Some of the 3rd party reviewers have requested more background on the exchange, including views from Schmidt and other related submissions, so Schmidt has been asked to write responses. The entire set of exchanges will be assessed once responses are coordinated, and we’ll let you know how to proceed at that point. Thanks for providing your code too.
Then in October 09, having heard nothing back, I wrote
From: Ross McKitrick [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, October 16, 2009 2:08 PM
To: Andrew Comrie
Cc: Nicolas Nierenberg
Subject: JOC-09-0139 – International Journal of Climatology
Another month has passed concerning our manuscript, and I am writing to ask if there is any progress to report. In a previous email you told me that even though Gavin Schmidt was not a reviewer he was nonetheless brought into the review process and given the opportunity to supply comments. At your request I supplied data and code to him, but I have not received any further communication from him about any comments or concerns he might have about our findings. My assumption is that Schmidt will be disposed against conceding anything we argue, and communication from him to that effect should not, of itself, be taken as evidence against the validity of our findings.
I have been concerned about the fact that there was a perceived need to give Schmidt an opportunity to communicate privately with the referees. Everything they need in order to evaluate the technical content of the two papers was in his original paper was and SI, plus our submission and supplemental material. By giving Schmidt a backchannel it opens up the possibility that he will raise new issues outside the scope of the two submissions, which under the circumstances would be improper, especially if we are not given the chance to respond to them.
Alternatively, if he has been brought into the process because a reviewer felt incapable of evaluating specific technical issues (e.g. pertaining to the statistical analysis), then an independent reviewer with expertise in the area should be consulted. I would caution against the assumption that Schmidt has the specific expertise to adjudicate such points, if by any chance that had been the motivation for bringing him into the process.
Thank you for your consideration.
To which Andrew replied
Gavin Schmidt left me a message a few days ago saying that he hoped to have his comments ready within a week. When I receive them, the process then goes back to the reviewers. As per earlier emails, I understand your concerns about his role and that of the reviewers, including the dimensions you mention below. I reiterate what I said before about keeping the review process fair all round.
I do appreciate your patience in this extended process caused by reviewer delays and requests. As soon as I have news I will be in touch.
On December 15, still having heard nothing, I sent in a revision that took into account some new results arising from the paper that ended up in SP&P. Comrie wrote back to say he was still waiting for “some reviewer feedback”.
On Feb 8 2010 we got the rejection based on 3 referee reports. None of them pointed to any technical flaws, they either dismissed the whole literature, or raised objections that would have applied equally to Schmidt’s paper. I sent in a protest letter the same day
(http://rossmckitrick.weebly.com/uploads/4/8/0/8/4808045/response_to_ijoc.pdf) which Comrie and MacGregor summarily dismissed.
At his website, Ross summarized the process as follows:
After 10 months we found out that IJOC was rejecting our paper on the basis of some inane referee reports to which Nico and I were not given a chance to reply. We did anyway, and if anyone thinks the rejection by IJOC amounts to a knock against our paper, please read our response letter for some perspective. Whether or not the IJOC editors read it, they refused to reconsider our paper. Interestingly, we learned from the Climategate release that Schmidt’s paper, which focuses on defending Phil Jones’ CRU data against its various critics, was sent by the IJOC Editors to be reviewed by Phil Jones of the CRU. As you can imagine his review was shallow and uncritical, but evidently impressed the editors of IJOC. They didn’t ask deLaat or me to supply a review, nor did they invite us to contribute a response. Every interaction I have had over the years with the IJOC has left me very unimpressed.
Whereas Gavin Schmidt demanded (and received) code from McKitrick as part of his review of the Mc-N comment, Phil Jones demanded nothing, providing only the following review (followed by a number of “minor comments” on punctuation and references):
This paper is timely as it clearly shows that the results claimed in dML06 and MM07 are almost certainly spurious. It is important that such papers get written and the obvious statistical errors highlighted. Here the problem relates to the original belief that there were many more spatial degrees of freedom. This is a common mistake and it will be good to have another paper to refer to when reviewing any more papers like dML06 and MM07. There is really no excuse for these sorts of mistakes to be made, that lead to erroneous claims about problems with the surface temperature record.
My recommendation is that the paper be accepted subject to minor revisions. I have grouped my comments into minor changes that are needed, and a second set of thoughts that the author might like to consider to help clarify his arguments. It is certain that this paper will get read by a particular type of climatologist, so it ought to be as clear as possible. I’m happy if all the thoughts are ignored.
The asymmetry of the peer review process is impossible to justify. Schmidt was reviewed by a conflicted party (conflicted in his favor) and received a puffball review. McKitrick and Nierenberg were reviewed by a conflicted party (adverse) who did what they could to prevent a “leak” in the system. (Climategate correspondent Tim Osborn was on the editorial board of IJOC.)
I remain puzzled on the justification for conflicted parties (conflict of interest including both partisanship and friendship) acting as anonymous reviewers, let alone without disclosure to the submitting authors. The only “explanation” that I’ve received is that the editor should take this into consideration, but, when confronted with partisan editors, this affords little reassurance. In this case, I am further puzzled by the apparent inequity in Schmidt acting as part of a peer review Team for McKitrick’s comment on his article, when McKitrick was not afforded a similar courtesy.